Five years jail for Sukh Ram in third graft conviction

New Delhi, Nov 19: A Delhi court Saturday sentenced former telecom minister Sukh Ram, 84, to five years rigorous imprisonment for misusing his official position when he was in the P.V. Narasimha Rao cabinet. This was his third conviction on corruption charges.

Special Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) Judge R.P. Pandey said: ‘After giving my thoughtful consideration to all the relevant aggravating and mitigating factors, I sentence convict Sukh Ram to undergo rigorous imprisonment for four years with a fine of Rs.1.5 lakh for offence committed by him under section 7 of the PC (Prevention of Corruption) Act.’

Sukh Ram is further sentenced to undergo rigorous imprisonment for five years with a fine of Rs.1.5 lakh for offence committed by him under sections 13 (1) (d) and section 13 (2) of the act, he said.

He also got another three-year term with a fine of Rs.1 lakh for offences under section 120-B (criminal conspiracy) of the Indian Penal Code, and sections 7 and 13 (1) (d) and section 13 (2) of the act.

All the sentences shall run concurrently.

Sukh Ram was taken into custody and sent to Tihar Jail.

‘The court can not remain oblivious to the fact of shaken public confidence in the efficacy of law to deal with corruption, particularly when it is the question of tackling the corruption case of high ranking public servants such as ministers and therefore the court can not afford to be excessively lenient with such convicts,’ the judge observed.

‘It is through the public servants the policies of the legislature and government are implemented and welfare of the society can be ensured. If such public servant of the rank of minister indulges in corruption, the whole structure of the society would be destroyed and the policies of the legislature and government, howsoever beneficial they may be would gravely suffer,’ noted the court.

Citing Kautilya in the 11-page order, the judge said: ‘I find wisdom in Kautilya’s philosophy that whoever imposes severe punishment becomes repulsive to people while he who awards mild punishment become contemptible. The rulers just with the rod is honoured when deserved punishment is given, it endows the subject with spiritual good, material well-being and pleasure of senses.’

Sukh Ram was convicted Thursday for accepting a bribe of Rs.3 lakh from a private firm in 1996.

In 1996, he had awarded a contract worth Rs.30 crore to a private firm, Haryana Telecom Limited (HTL), for supplying 3.5 lakh km cables at inflated rates, causing a huge monetary loss to the exchequer.

Sukh Ram had been put on trial along with HTL chairman Devinder Singh Choudhary who died during the trial.

During arguments on the quantum of sentence, Sukh Ram’s counsel pleaded that his client is an octogenarian and attending the trial for the past 12 to 13 years.

He also sought leniency on the grounds that his client is suffering from age-related ailments and has also lost his wife.

The CBI prosecutor, however, termed Sukh Ram as a habitual offender saying he has been sentenced in two other cases also and thus deserved no leniency.

‘We should not forget that he was an MP and a minister and has betrayed the confidence of public at large,’ said the prosecutor.

Meanwhile, Sukh Ram said he was a victim of a political conspiracy.

‘I am a victim of a political conspiracy. I will not end my fight here. I will move a higher court to get justice. I will come out clean,’ Sukh Ram told IANS over phone from his residence in Noida.

He was also attacked by a man in the Rohini courts complex here Saturday but escaped unhurt. The assailant, Harvinder Singh, was detained by police.

Sukh Ram has been convicted twice earlier on separate corruption charges. In 2009, he was convicted for owning disproportionate assets worth Rs.4.25 crore.

Earlier in 2002, he was sentenced to three years in jail in another corruption case, held guilty for causing a loss of Rs.1.66 crore in award of a contract to a Hyderabad-based firm for supplying some equipment.

A seven-time legislator and three time MP, Sukh Ram was expelled from the Congress in the mid-1990s.